What does it look like to let dads be dads? As we head into Father’s Day weekend, Michele Morin underscores the importance of a father in the life of their children and discusses how everyone benefits when an influential dad is given the opportunity to contribute his unique gifts, perspectives, and personality to the family.
As the mother of four sons, I was frequently a spectator to the ‘boy culture’ in our home, peering through the testosterone haze and drawing conclusions about life from the male perspective. In the early days, I made the unfortunate practice of over-reacting to their stunts, particularly when those stunts involved rooftops and bodies hurtling through space.
One day, after a particularly deep snowfall, I learned the two oldest boys had been climbing onto the woodshed roof and jumping off! A few hours after forbidding their reckless behavior, my husband came home from work. I greeted their dad with my daily litany of, “You won’t believe what they did today!” The boys were nearby when their dad heard about ‘the woodshed incident‘.
“Show me what you did,” he said with a smile.
The Importance of a father
After donning mittens, snowsuits, and boots, I heard their laughter all the way to the scene of the crime. Their dad took in the depth of snow, the height of the roof, the openness of the landing space, and the way the wind kept blowing even more snow into the pile. The snow was deep enough to catch them. The roof was not too high.
He reminded them to jump one at a time and to launch out only feet first. He stood in the cold and watched them for a while, laughing at their dramatic lift offs and cheering for them when they stuck the landing.
A Mirror of God’s Character
When an approachable and wise father responds with grace to his children’s antics, they are given the opportunity to connect the dots toward a God who is both approachable and reasonable. They discover the Romans 8:1 reassurance that, “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” It’s a truth that will come in handy someday when they come to God and need forgiveness.
A Reminder of Gratitude
Instead of feeling as though my judgment had been invalidated that day, I felt relieved and grateful. I found compassion for my single-mom sisters who routinely manage without another pair of eyes, a differently-wired brain, and a completely different view of the world working alongside them. While many families don’t have the luxury of a present and loving father in their home, I realized how often I took my husband for granted. I made a choice to stop micro-managing my husband and give him space to thrive as a father. Our children are blessed when their father contributes his unique gifts, perspectives, and personality to the family.
What does it look like then to let dads be dads?
THE GIFT OF LIGHTHEARTED FUN
When a dad says (with his words and actions), “There’s no place I’d rather be than with my family,” everybody wins. He mirrors the delight God expresses over His children. And he prepares his kids to know a loving God who savors our uniqueness and declares His love with abandon. “He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you by his love, he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
However, family fun can be a lot of work. And a tired mom who is with the kids full time might be tempted to interpret a beach day as two loads of laundry and a cooler full of food. Fun family time doesn’t just happen! Someone has to make a plan for it. Still, my children loved it when they woke up to the news, “Hey, it’s time for a beach day!”
Where Dads Excel
Dads pitch in by helping with the behind-the-scenes preparation. But more importantly they get the ball rolling with their enthusiasm for the sheer fun of a day. They get genuinely excited to play in the sun, canoe down a lazy river, hike a trail through the woods, shoot hoops, or even play a family Monopoly tournament.
A Fun-Filled Beach Day
For a beach day, our family would pack shovels and a cooler of food to last the whole day. I am not a strong swimmer, and I didn’t grow up near the ocean. So I knew that, had it been left to me, I wouldn’t have summoned the motivation for a beach day. I certainly wouldn’t have taken on the Atlantic Ocean when my sons were old enough to body surf. But those beach days were an opportunity to bond as a family. I enjoyed every minute of snuggling with the little guys, drowsy and wrapped in their beach towels after a morning of fresh air and vigorous play.
THE GIFT OF A FAITHFUL PROVIDER
The truth is those full coolers, beach toys, and travel come at a cost. And while we’re making a list, so do size 12 shoes, piano lessons, and a homeschool curriculum. I had scuttled my own resume in order to stay home with our children when they were small. Then we made the decision to homeschool, so my earning potential was quite limited.
I struggled with trust and my tendency to want to be in control of our family’s finances. My faith was stretched by trusting God and trusting my husband. Together, we made the decision for me to be at home full-time. So the responsibility of being our sole provider fell on him.
A Tone of Generosity
In our home, my husband set a tone of generosity by making provision for our family with an open hand. It’s become a family joke that when Dad goes to the grocery store with a list including flour, he comes home with twenty pounds of it. When he talks to the farmer down the road, he buys a freezer full of meat. During the season of braces and fast-growing feet, he concluded: “If one job doesn’t pay the bills, I’ll get two… or even three!”
My trust in his faithfulness grew as he mirrored God’s faithfulness. The God who encouraged His people, Israel, even in their season of exile, to “…let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isaiah 55:2).
THE GIFT OF FATHERLY WISDOM
When it comes to life’s questions, a dad is often on the hook. No topic should be off limits for either parent to discuss. But when it comes time to talk about the responsibility and blessing of being a man, a boy needs straight talk from his father—or from a trusted family friend. Girls also need the broadening effect of the male perspective and the reassurance of their dad’s love. Both sons and daughters need a dad’s input to balance or reinforce the words they hear from their mom.
Prioritize Open Communication
Whether it was a conversation about faith or a question about sex, my husband’s response was always the same: “I want to be the one who tells them.” Having frequent discourse instead of just once-a-day family devotions or “The Sex Talk” demystifies big subjects. This reassures children that no topic is off-limits to bring to their parents.
A dad who invites conversation and creates an environment of openness mirrors the Heavenly Father. The God who says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).
THE GIFT OF A FULLY FUNCTIONING TEAM
It was easy to tell when life had become too busy in our home. We started losing things. Keys were sucked into an alternate dimension, important pieces of paper disappeared forever. And worst of all, we, the parents, stopped communicating. When moms and dads are running in different orbits, important meetings, drop-offs and pick-ups, band concerts, and ball games are suddenly hit or miss.
Stay in Sync
As the keeper of the calendar, I learned the importance of keeping my husband informed. (Great as he is, he never did master the fine art of mind reading.) If I wanted his support and participation in our busy family, I had to be very clear about my needs and expectations. Calendar meetings became a regular part of life, with both of us at the dining room table, pencils in hand, planners open.
Synchronizing our calendars was a practical demonstration to our kids and to each other that, as a family, we wanted to live a seamless life. We wanted to be physically present to cheer one another on, to celebrate, give support, and be mindful of one another’s lives.
MAKING A PLAN WITH THE DAD IN YOUR HOME
It can feel very risky to let go of your own white knuckle control of the schedule, activities, and tone of your home. As moms, we tend to have our finger on the pulse of our families. But what a lonely and overwhelming assignment to try to be and do all things when we have been given the gift of a dad who is present.
Giving up control doesn’t come easily; it requires practice. If you find yourself micro-managing your husband and need to make a course correction, start with just one of these tasks:
1. Schedule Some Fun
Make a list of activities you know your husband enjoys which would be fun for the whole family. Ask him to choose one. Then schedule a time when you can make plans to have some family fun. Let your husband take the lead in the communication, preparation, and implementation of the plan.
2. Express Gratitude for His Provision
Sit down with your husband and review your budget together. No matter where the money comes from, express gratitude for his part in providing for you and your children. Surprise him with a text or a note in his lunch thanking him for faithfully working so your family is cared for. Remind him of the gift it is that your children have a good work ethic modeled for them by their dad.
3. Validate His Opinion
The next time a question comes from one of your kids, pause and look to your husband before jumping in. If he doesn’t take the lead, begin with your feedback, and then query him for his input. Make it clear that you appreciate his thoughts. If this is a surprising alternative for him, be sure to apologize for times in the past where you may have belittled his words or disregarded his opinion.
4. Sync Your Calendars
Decide on a time for a weekly calendar meeting that works for you and your husband. Linger over coffee on a Saturday morning, or start a movie for the kids on a Friday night. Hold your calendar meeting then show up for the movie a few minutes late with a bowl of popcorn.
The dad my kids grew up with, and the guy my grown-up sons call today for advice, would never claim to be Super-Dad. As his wife, I had the privilege of watching as he, imperfectly but faithfully, took his cues from his own Heavenly Father. And eventually I learned to do the same. When a husband and a wife trust for grace to work together, everyday life is half as heavy and everyday blessings are twice as blessed.
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